Dimitrov likely to be too good for Harris



Several potential value spots worth discussing

There were wins for Tommy Paul, Denis Shapovalov, Alexander Bublik and Alex De Minaur on day one in Madrid with just the four matches taking place on the opening day on Sunday. I’m always a little confused as to why some tournaments have a few matches on the Sunday – why not just play them today and have a 14-match Monday schedule?

As it is, there’s just ten to pick from in terms of value today and there are only two spots that really look slightly out of line, with both taking place in the early matches on the schedule today at 10:00 UK time.

Isner could benefit from the quicker conditions in Madrid

With quick conditions traditionally prevalent in Madrid, big-servers should benefit more from conditions compared to more traditional clay venues which will play noticeably slower. Considering this, John Isner could be one who will find his serve less negated here compared to clay in general and he has a half-decent record in Madrid in the past, reaching the quarter-final twice in his last two appearances at the venue.

Isner’s propensity to play tiebreaks is illustrated by those last two tournaments here. He has played 11 tiebreaks across 18 sets in Madrid in those events, and a tight match today is anticipated as he takes on Miomir Kecmanovic.

The problem with Isner is that he’s probably on a downward curve.

He turned 36 last week, and hasn’t won three consecutive matches in a tournament since February last year in Acapulco. His record since the tour resumed last summer is mediocre, standing at 7-6, and his numbers currently suggest a very serve-orientated, average player at ATP level. Opponent Kecmanovic is on a more upward trajectory, and is slowly improving on clay having won in quick conditions in Kitzbuhel in September last year. Isner is 2.407/5 to win, and this looks a bit generous, but I’m unconvinced of Isner’s current level.

Dimitrov with much more clay pedigree than Harris

Grigor Dimitrov has done reasonably well this year, reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and a couple of quarter-finals in lower events as well, and the Bulgarian picked up a couple of wins as favourite several weeks ago in Monte Carlo. A 6-1 6-1 loss on slow clay to Rafa Nadal is something which many players can probably empathise with, and Dimitrov could be another player who likes the quicker conditions likely to be on display in Madrid.

With the exception of a two-tiebreak loss to Taylor Fritz in 2019, Dimitrov’s losses in Madrid have come against strong opposition – mainly top 10 or top 20 players with Dimitrov either a marginal favourite or underdog – and his opponent today, Lloyd Harris, doesn’t have an abundance of clay pedigree either.

Dimitrov is 1.434/9 to get past the South African this morning, and even as a fairly short-priced favourite, this looks like some value to me. Based on general market lines, we should get around 1.9010/11 on Dimitrov -3.5 games in the run-up to the match, and I think this is a reasonable enough spot. As always, there’s caution in the opening round, but this price looks as good anything today in my view.

Alcaraz Garfia favourite to set up Nadal clash

Most of today’s other matches look accurately priced, with a couple catching the eye. Ugo Humbert versus Aslan Karatsev looks the match of the round, with two players around the top 30 meeting – also in the 10:00 batch of matches. There is much more evidence of Karatsev being a higher level clay courter and it’s unsurprising to see the Russian favourite at 1.331/3.

At a slightly shorter price, I’m also interested in seeing the continued progress of Carlos Alcaraz Garfia, with the Spanish talent getting a kind opening round draw against the Frenchman, Adrian Mannarino, who tends to do his best work away from clay.

However, Mannarino is likely to enjoy the quicker conditions in Madrid compared to most clay venues, but I’m rooting for an Alcaraz victory today to set up what looks like a fascinating round two all-Spanish clash with Rafa Nadal, which would see the King of Clay face the highest potential Spanish clay-courter currently on tour.

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